Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Storm positive about negative

It's one of those questions that's usually answered by the eighth grade: Can a negative become a positive?

Although his club dropped two games last weekend in Peoria - its fifth and sixth consecutive losses to the Rivermen after winning the first two games of the season series - Storm coach Claude Noel prefers to look at the plus side of the equation.

“I think the two games in Peoria were not good for us, but good for us,” Noel said. “Does that make sense?

“[Those games] told the coaching staff where we were at. It's good we know now, three weeks before the playoffs begin. We're addressing the issue, what we feel has to be corrected.”

In mathematics, a negative can never become a positive without action. It's Noel's job to take the proper action in an attempt to solve the problem.

“It wouldn't be systems,” Noel said. “It wouldn't be players.”

Would it be mindset?

“Yes,” the bench boss said.

With the postseason set to begin in early April, Toledo (40-14-9) has just two more opportunities to get into the right frame of mind versus Peoria (43-14-5). Tonight and tomorrow, the clubs will meet at the Sports Arena beginning at 7:30. Up for grabs is first place in the East Coast Hockey League and the Northwest Division.

The Storm's 89 points trail the league-leading Rivermen by two, with Peoria having played one less game than Toledo. Should both win their first-round divisional playoff series they'll meet in a best-of-five set, with the winner advancing to the ECHL's Final Four.

The organization that finishes first in the division during the regular season gets home-ice advantage, usually a key factor in a short series.

“We've got to respect them, but not give them too much respect,” Storm rookie center Matt Ellis said of the Rivermen. “They have a great team, but we have a great team and we have to give ourselves credit for being a great team as well.”

Ellis has been Toledo's most focused player of late. He recorded his first professional hat trick in Saturday's loss at Peoria, and has eight goals and five assists in his last 10 outings.

“It's a surprise that we've lost six to those guys,” Ellis said. “They have a physical team and that's what they pride themselves on. Things depend on us, how we come out and set the tone. We've got to have an attitude where we're not backing down.”

Storm center Erik Anderson said setting and then maintaining that tone for a full 60 minutes each night is crucial.

“We've got to be mentally stronger than we have been in the past,” Anderson said. “They've been physical every time we've played them, and we've got to try and match their physical play. They like to try and intimidate you, and we've got to let them know as quickly as possible that we're not going to be intimidated.

“At the beginning of the year [when Toledo ran off a 14-2-1 start], there wasn't any one or anything that was going to get in our way. We have to find a way to get that edge back, and hopefully we can find it during this series.”

The last time Toledo beat Peoria was on Nov. 8, a 5-2 decision at home that improved the Storm's record to 10-1-1.

“These are enormous games,” Ellis said. “The biggest thing is getting our confidence back, playing against this Peoria team.

“It's been addressed. Things will be different this weekend.”

NOTES: Storm forwards Darryl Bootland and Nathan Robinson have been recalled to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League and will miss the series. Fellow forward Tim Verbeek is questionable with a sore right shoulder. ... The Storm is asking fans to dress in red for the weekend, calling the promotion “Red Alert.”

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